The Brisbane International offers up an intriguing first-round encounter as seventh seed Johanna Konta faces Madison Keys. With both players coming off of disappointing finishes to 2017, this draw provides both with the opportunity for an early marquee win.
The two players will be meeting for the second time with Konta having taken their only previous encounter in the semifinals of Beijing in 2016 by a 7-6, 1-6, 6-4 score.
Konta looks to follow up stellar 2017 with good start to 2018
The Brit had a magical year last season, winning Premier-level events in Sydney and Miami while becoming the first British woman to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals in 33 years. With a career-high ranking of number five, Konta appeared on course to make her debut at the WTA Finals after heartbreak in 2016.
Again, she was pipped to the final spot when Caroline Garcia claimed titles in Wuhan and Beijing. She endured a five-match losing streak spanning from Cincinnati to Beijing with a foot injury hampering her. In the offseason, Konta made a coaching coach, parting ways with Wim Fissette and hiring Michael Joyce, formerly the coach of Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.
She participated in an exhibition event in Hua Hin, splitting her two matches, losing to world number one Simona Halep while knocking off French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.
Keys hopes to build on success of summer hardcourt season
The American experienced her greatest success of the 2017 campaign during the U.S. Open Series as she won her second career title in Stanford, defeating fellow American Coco Vandeweghe in the final.
Weeks later, she reached her maiden final at a Grand Slam when she made it all the way to the championship match at the U.S. Open, losing to Sloane Stephens while winning just three games.
Ranked 11th, Keys appeared to be in good position to make a run at the WTA Finals before ending her season in Wuhan due to wrist issues which previously forced her out of action for the first three months of the year.
How they match up
Both players are very hard hitters with Keys possessing more firepower, especially on her serve and forehand. Konta possesses many of the same attributes and will attempt to target the American's backhand, which is her weakest shot.
The edge in consistency and movement goes to the Brit as she can defend well when forced to, something she will likely have to do often in this match. Net play sees the American with a slight advantage as she attempts to use that play by setting it up with her powerful groundstrokes.
In the end, both players will feel they can win this match, but Konta should prove to be a bit too consistent and pull out a very close match.
Match prediction: Konta def. Keys in three close sets